In 2000 Just Block It stepped up to the plate as the founding sponsor of the annual Johnny Bench Award for the nations top Collegiate catcher of the year. In corelation with this annual event Johnny Bench and Just Block It Catchers Camp put on a camp for catchers in the Wichita area at Lawrence Dumont stadium.
The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission started the Johnny Bench Award in 2000. The commission felt that since the most demanding and dangerous position on a baseball field is the one designated as “number 2” on a scorecard – the catcher, then it would only be fitting that the baseball community nationally recognize the top collegiate catcher.
Thus the Johnny Bench Award was formed to be awarded annually to the nations top collegiate catcher based on athletic ability, sportsmanship, team leadership and character.
The Selection Process
The Johnny Bench Award is presented annually to the nation’s top collegiate catcher as voted on by Division I coaches.
A watch list is compiled from nominations received from the universities and released in March.
A selection committee will then narrow the list down to the semifinalists. Statistical information on each semifinalist is then compiled and sent to the national selection committee by the end of May. A vote by the national selection committee narrows the list to the three finalists.
Another vote during the College World Series will determine who will be named the Johnny Bench National Collegiate Catcher of the Year. The three finalists will be brought to Wichita for the awards banquet at the end of June.
Mr. Johnny Bench
While Johnny Bench is remembered for his offense, he may have had the greatest impact behind the plate. He was the first receiver to use a protective helmet in the field, popularized catching one-handed and kept his throwing hand behind his back to protect it from foul tips.
Bench’s career honors include: National League Rookie of the Year (1968); National League Most Valuable Player (1970, 1972); World Series Most Valuable Player (1976); 14-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner. In 1980, he set an endurance record by catching 100+ games for 13 consecutive seasons. Bench was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in January 1989 with the fourth highest percentage of total votes cast.